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How Microchipping Can Help Reunite You with Lost Pets

By CarolineGolon on Jun. 19, 2017

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Imagine losing your dog only to be reunited with him three years later—thanks to a microchip. That's what happened when one Texas family's pup went missing from their yard. The Kelly family searched everywhere for their lost dog, Gucci. Shortly after, they had to move out of state. "We were devastated," Ayana Kelly told The Virginian Pilot. "We really felt like we left a family member behind."

Three years later, the family received a call from a San Antonio animal shelter. Gucci was alive and well and in their care. The shelter had scanned Gucci's microchip and found the Kellys' contact information. Soon, Gucci returned to his loving family.

For a pet parent, losing a pet is one of the scariest things that can happen. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to help make sure your beloved pets quickly and safely get back home to you. A collar, ID tags and a microchip are the essentials to help identify your pets and reunite them with you should they go astray.

What is a microchip?

A microchip is a radio-frequency identification (RFID) device about the size of a grain of rice. These tiny devices contain an identification number that is unique to your pet and is tied to an online database that contains your contact information. When a special scanner is waved over the microchip, it reads the chip’s radio frequency and displays the identification number. Typically, a veterinarian’s office, animal shelter or law enforcement agency has a handheld scanner to use for this purpose.

When the number is entered into the online database, the person who scanned the chip can retrieve contact information and reunite the pet with his family. While there are several types or “frequencies” of microchips, universal microchip scanners—which can read different types of chips—are standard.  

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What kind of information does a microchip contain?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), microchips only contain an ID number. The chip itself does not contain any contact information nor can it track a pet. When you register your pet in the database, you can decide to provide additional information about your pet beyond your contact information.

Which pets can be microchipped?

Most people know that dogs and cats can be microchipped, but they are not the only pets that can benefit. Other animals, such as horses and rabbits, also can be microchipped. Chips can even be used to monitor livestock in research facilities.

What is the microchipping process like?

The process is quick and usually painless. Using a hypodermic needle, microchips are implanted between the shoulder blades under your pet's skin. General anesthesia is not necessary for this simple procedure, although local anesthesia is sometimes used.

Do pets require any special care after a microchip is inserted?

Within about 24 hours, the your pet's tissues usually bond to the chip so it stays in place. (In rare instances, the chip can migrate to another part of your pet’s body. The microchip can still be detected if the person performing the scan passes over another area of the body.) Allow the microchip insertion site to fully heal before bathing or grooming your pet.

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How can I get my pet microchipped?

Most veterinarians or animal shelters implant microchips. The procedure cost can vary. Vetco microchips dogs and cats for $15 with no registration fee. Some shelters and clinics offer low cost or free microchipping clinics, too. Ask your veterinarian or local shelter about any upcoming specials or events.

How do I register my pet’s microchip?

When your pet is microchipped, you should receive manufacturer information and the microchip number. You can visit the manufacturer’s website to register your pet and input your contact information.

Most registries charge a registration fee and, sometimes, an annual maintenance fee to keep the information up to date. Organizations like foundanimals.org and freepetchipregistry.com do not charge a fee for microchip registration, and there are other similar types of universal registries in the works.

During a microchip scan, the information that pops up typically indicates which company registered the microchip. If not, there are other ways professionals can track down microchip registrations. For example, the American Animal Hospital Association has a special database that can quickly determine which company the microchip is registered through. To ensure a microchip does its job, it’s incredibly important to keep your pet’s microchip information up to date. (Always remember to update your contact information if you move or get a new phone number.)

What if my newly adopted pet already has a microchip?

If your new pet already has a chip, get the pet’s microchip number and manufacturer and update the contact information. If you don’t have the number, you can ask your veterinarian or local shelter to scan the animal for that information.

How do I find my pet if he or she is missing? 

When a lost or stray pet comes into their care, shelter workers or animal control officers generally scan for a microchip first. Helpful people often bring lost pets to veterinarians’ offices or animal welfare organizations to have them scanned for a microchip. This simple procedure has reunited thousands of animals with their families.

If your pet’s microchip information is up to date, if someone scans your pet, they’ll have current contact information and be able to get in touch with you right away. Include your cell phone in the database information so you can be alerted immediately.

What kind of information does the microchip registry database include?

The database requires contact information, but you can also include a variety of other details such as your pet’s photo and description, your preferred veterinary clinic, and more.

How long do microchips last?

Microchips don’t have any moving parts or power source so there’s nothing that requires charging or replacing. They are also built out of biocompatible materials so they won’t break down. As a result, once the microchip is implanted in your pet, it should last your pet’s lifetime.

How can microchips help me reunite a lost dog with his family?

You can take the lost pet to a veterinarian or local shelter and ask them to scan the pet for a microchip. Alternatively, you could call your local law enforcement agency to see if they have a chip scanner. If the pet has a microchip, the veterinarian or shelter worker retrieves the microchip number, looks up the registered contact information and gets in touch with the pet’s family.

Do microchips really work?

Yes. According to a study by the Ohio State University Department of Preventative Veterinary Medicine, out of 53 shelters that recorded information on 7,704 animals entering a shelter with a microchip, 73% of the families of stray dogs and cats were successfully located (74% for dogs and 63.5% for cats). 

But remember, you have to register and keep your information updated. In the same study, researchers discovered that one of the most common reasons pet parents weren’t successfully contacted was due to incorrect or non-working phone numbers (35.4%). And roughly one out of 10 of microchips weren’t registered. 

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As a pet parent, it’s your responsibility to care for your pet. That includes taking steps to help your dog or cat get back home should it go missing. Investing a bit of time and money into microchipping your pet can make all the difference in the event of an emergency.

I'd like to make an appointment to get my pet microchipped.

Somebody needs a new collar. And ID tag

Have a new pet? Here's everything you need to know.

Talk to a vet, right now, for free.

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments
Comments
by
‎06-24-2016 03:09 PM

Like some counties have already done, a microchip eliminates the need to renew a dog license every year.  It would make more sense to require all dogs (and cats) to be microchipped by, say, the age of 6 months.  However, having multiple microchip brands/companies complicates things.  People are often opposed to the government taking over, but mictrochip registries on a State level might be beneficial (but not to the existing companies).

 

There will always be the problem of some people keeping a found dog or stealing dogs for themselves or the "reward".  There needs to be a way to detect when someone has kept a microchipped pet that belongs to someone else.  This might be discovered by a vet examining the pet, but only if the person actually takes the pet to a vet or the vet were to check every pet's microchip against a national "lost" pet list - and try to prove that the person isn't the rightful owner.

 

Overall, I think microchips are very useful and wish more people would have their pets microchipped!

Like some counties have already done, a microchip eliminates the need to renew a dog license every year.  It would make more sense to require all dogs (and cats) to be microchipped by, say, the age of 6 months.  However, having multiple microchip brands/companies complicates things.  People are often opposed to the government taking over, but mictrochip registries on a State level might be beneficial (but not to the existing companies).

 

There will always be the problem of some people keeping a found dog or stealing dogs for themselves or the "reward".  There needs to be a way to detect when someone has kept a microchipped pet that belongs to someone else.  This might be discovered by a vet examining the pet, but only if the person actually takes the pet to a vet or the vet were to check every pet's microchip against a national "lost" pet list - and try to prove that the person isn't the rightful owner.

 

Overall, I think microchips are very useful and wish more people would have their pets microchipped!

Posted on Jun. 24, 2016
by Broken
‎07-11-2016 12:15 PM

A word of caution... I have worked in the veterinary field my entire life ( both small and large animal ).  There is no such thing as a "universal scanner" these days.  Since there are numerous microchip companies out there, no microchip scanner has been created to pick up all numbers from all companies.  While one scanner might pick up on your pet's microchip, another scanner may not.  I know several shelters and hospitals that have a couple different microchip scanners in hopes of not missing a microchip on a found pet.  So if a lost pet is found and scanned by one microchip scanner, but no chip is found, it does not mean the pet does not have a microchip! The microchip scanner might not be for that microchip! Unfortunately, there are microchip pets who are never returned to their families because the microchip scanner was just not one that read their specific microchip.  Some clinics will take a quick x-ray of a pet who came up negative with microchip scanning just to make sure the pet actually does not have a microchip.

A word of caution... I have worked in the veterinary field my entire life ( both small and large animal ).  There is no such thing as a "universal scanner" these days.  Since there are numerous microchip companies out there, no microchip scanner has been created to pick up all numbers from all companies.  While one scanner might pick up on your pet's microchip, another scanner may not.  I know several shelters and hospitals that have a couple different microchip scanners in hopes of not missing a microchip on a found pet.  So if a lost pet is found and scanned by one microchip scanner, but no chip is found, it does not mean the pet does not have a microchip! The microchip scanner might not be for that microchip! Unfortunately, there are microchip pets who are never returned to their families because the microchip scanner was just not one that read their specific microchip.  Some clinics will take a quick x-ray of a pet who came up negative with microchip scanning just to make sure the pet actually does not have a microchip.

Posted on Jul. 11, 2016
by Cheesefluff
‎07-15-2016 08:33 AM

I have two rabbits at home and they have seperate indoor cages and outdoor hutches, so we frequently have to carry them across the garden. Our yard has a fence but it is old and would not safely contain them if there ever escaped or jumped out of my arms or anything. Would anyone reccomemend microchipping rabbits?Smiley Happy

I have two rabbits at home and they have seperate indoor cages and outdoor hutches, so we frequently have to carry them across the garden. Our yard has a fence but it is old and would not safely contain them if there ever escaped or jumped out of my arms or anything. Would anyone reccomemend microchipping rabbits?Smiley Happy

Posted on Jul. 15, 2016
by Community Manager
‎07-15-2016 09:50 AM

Hi Cheesefluff. I checked in with one of Petco's animal care specialists about microchipping rabbits and they responded that rabbits can be microchipped if you're concerned about escape howeever, we recommend discussing this issue with your vet. In the mean time, you may want to look into making the fence escape-proof. As you probably know, rabbits can squeeze through holes much smaller than we think they could. Good luck!

AlexCat Very Happy

Hi Cheesefluff. I checked in with one of Petco's animal care specialists about microchipping rabbits and they responded that rabbits can be microchipped if you're concerned about escape howeever, we recommend discussing this issue with your vet. In the mean time, you may want to look into making the fence escape-proof. As you probably know, rabbits can squeeze through holes much smaller than we think they could. Good luck!

AlexCat Very Happy

Posted on Jul. 15, 2016
by Allan Nygaard
‎07-29-2016 09:35 PM

In my country, Denmark chipping is mandatory when the puppy goes for its 8 week checkup. Also if a dog changes caretaker this info is automatically updated since nobody can change home without reporting it to the authorities.

 

I was surprised to learn that chipping is not mandatory everywhere.

 

Do it for your pets sake.

In my country, Denmark chipping is mandatory when the puppy goes for its 8 week checkup. Also if a dog changes caretaker this info is automatically updated since nobody can change home without reporting it to the authorities.

 

I was surprised to learn that chipping is not mandatory everywhere.

 

Do it for your pets sake.

Posted on Jul. 29, 2016
by cathy p
‎08-14-2017 05:11 PM

My testament to micorchipping. We adopted our sweet black cat Twizzler, from a local humane society, he was microchipped. He was an indoor/outdoor cat and one day after we had him about 2 years he disappeared. We put up signs and looked all around our neighborhood. I called the humane society where we adopted him, and they said if they found him they would know because of his chip and would contact me. I kept checking back every week for several months and then pretty much gave up. One year later on April Fools Day I got a call from the humane society and someone brought in our cat!!! I thought it was a joke at first! I couldn't believe it. I couldn't wait to pick up my kids at school and tell them they were just excited beyond belief. We went and picked him up and instantly knew it was him. We have 5 rescue dogs and a cat and they are all chipped. I know it's not a 100% guarantee, but we feel it's better odds of getting them back then not having. Our dogs also have the 24 pet watch tags on them with the number to call if they are found. We have 2 Jack Russells that used to get out sometimes and we got back them back a couple of times by someone finding them & calling the number and 24 PetWatch contacted us and gave us the finder's phone number or address.  

My testament to micorchipping. We adopted our sweet black cat Twizzler, from a local humane society, he was microchipped. He was an indoor/outdoor cat and one day after we had him about 2 years he disappeared. We put up signs and looked all around our neighborhood. I called the humane society where we adopted him, and they said if they found him they would know because of his chip and would contact me. I kept checking back every week for several months and then pretty much gave up. One year later on April Fools Day I got a call from the humane society and someone brought in our cat!!! I thought it was a joke at first! I couldn't believe it. I couldn't wait to pick up my kids at school and tell them they were just excited beyond belief. We went and picked him up and instantly knew it was him. We have 5 rescue dogs and a cat and they are all chipped. I know it's not a 100% guarantee, but we feel it's better odds of getting them back then not having. Our dogs also have the 24 pet watch tags on them with the number to call if they are found. We have 2 Jack Russells that used to get out sometimes and we got back them back a couple of times by someone finding them & calling the number and 24 PetWatch contacted us and gave us the finder's phone number or address.  

Posted on Aug. 14, 2017
About the Author
  • Caroline Golon is a frequent contributor to sites like Vetstreet, Catster, Dogster, Mother Nature Network, ASPCA Parents, Cuteness.com, Petfinder and more. She’s also the creator of Crayons & Collars, a site dedicated to busy families with pets and kids. You can find Golon many places online but she resides in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two young daughters. The Golons are dedicated staff members to a fluffy black cat named Pugsley who, obviously, runs the household.
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